Don’t miss out on high-octane coastal rowing at Sandbanks Beach in August

Get your entry in now for three days of dramatic racing at the British Rowing Offshore Championships and British Rowing Beach Sprints Championships

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Going coastal (c) WEROW

Sandbanks Beach near Poole is the idyllic setting for a three-day coastal extravaganza when competitors race in the British Rowing Offshore Championships on 9-10 August, with the first-ever British Rowing Beach Sprints Championships launching the day after on 11 August.

Now is the time to get your entry in for both competitions before they close at 1pm on Tuesday 23 July. You can can enter here.

If you like rowing, then you’ll love offshore coastal rowing, says Helena Smalman-Smith in the current issue of Rowing & Regatta magazine. The good news for still-water rowers is that standard rowing skills are highly transferable to other types of boats that are high in off-the-scale fun.

What is offshore rowing?

Unlike in sailing, where ‘offshore’ means ‘out of sight of land’, you can always see the beach when you’re ‘offshore rowing’.

It involves heading straight out from the shore through the breakers, and the term is used to distinguish it from the long-established type of UK coastal rowing which takes place in estuaries, harbours, sheltered bays, or alongside a beach in calmer conditions.

The coxed quads, doubles and singles used in offshore coastal rowing are the relatively new FISA design which solves the biggest challenges of rowing in rough water – that the boat fills up as waves break over it – with a stroke of design genius. The boat is basically a surfboard with sides but an open stern, so water landing ‘in’ it, just empties straight out the back.

The stability of these boats is really impressive so you can enjoy your rowing even in wavy conditions

FISA boats are also extremely stable which makes them safe even in more challenging conditions.

Paul Harrold, a member of Stratford-upon-Avon BC, turned up for his first coastal sculling outing in a FISA-type boat, and says: “I was shown the single I was to use and I thought I might be going for a swim. Boy, was I wrong! The stability of these boats is really impressive so you can enjoy your rowing and take in the scenery even in wavy conditions.”

What about coastal racing?

There are two main events in FISA-type coastal boats: standard races of 4-6km and much shorter beach sprints. Both involve wet starts and buoy turns as well as running through sand.

For the longer races, competitors start in the water by their boat, jump in, and row out round several buoys that mark out a vaguely square course. There can be a lot of jockeying for position with other crews at these. When the boats get back to the shore, one person leaps out and sprints to the finish line 10-50 metres up the beach. Dramatic sand dives are optional but highly photogenic!

Kath Jackson-Jones has taken part in several coastal races. The BTC Southampton rower says: “Coastal racing can be a lot more unpredictable than river rowing, although for us smaller rowers, this can level the playing field a bit.

Race day on the beach is more like a festival than a regatta!

“I love that it’s not just strength but also requires endurance, grit, respect for the sea and most importantly, a sense of humour! One minute you will be flying along, riding the waves and then suddenly you’ll be stationary as you’ve mysteriously hit dead water.”

She adds: “The coastal clubs have built an incredible community and race day on the beach is more like a festival than a regatta!”

Read how last year’s British Rowing Offshore Championships progressed here. The Commonwealth Beach Sprint Championships took place at Sandbanks Beach in 2018 – read our report here